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The Psychology of Colors in Email Marketing: Impact on Conversions

Colors impact our mood. That much is old news, right?

What’s more interesting is that with the right color strategies (and tools), you could boost accessibility, generate leads, increase conversions, and improve your onboarding experience.

Put it this way: If the colors in your email match the messages you’re trying to convey, you’ll get better results from your campaign.

But how do you meet all those goals without spending hours looking at your email builder?

In this comprehensive guide, we answer this question and show you how to set up A/B testing in email flows that optimize your use of color. We also look at real-life examples of how the psychology of color has been successfully implemented to boost brand image and onboarding.  

The basics of color psychology

Color psychology studies how colors affect human behavior, emotions, and perceptions. Since harnessing specific emotions and triggering certain behaviors is the essence of marketing, color psychology is a highly relevant concept for all marketers.

Research from the University of Winnipeg shows that people typically form 62-90% of their initial impression of a product based on colors alone. Knowing how to use color to convey an instant message is critical to improving your email marketing conversion rates

Keep in mind that the psychology of colors is nuanced. You need to consider contextual factors, cultural implications, and the perspectives of your target audience.  For example, while a graphic designer might associate a yellow-heavy email with positivity and creativity,  Police Officers might relate the color more to a crime scene tape. 

As we explore later in this guide, email testing is essential to working out these details and ensuring your color choices resonate positively with your readers.

Understanding the color wheel

We all learned the color wheel at school. 

What they didn’t tell us is that, is that “A primary goal of the visual system is to make sense of the distribution of light that reaches the retina in order to guide one’s actions in the environment,” The Handbook of Color Psychology.

Put simply, our minds are constantly processing the information received through the eyes and driving us to act accordingly.

The color wheel provides a way to organize and understand the spectrum of colors and the impact they usually have on us. 

  • Red has been scientifically linked to the concepts of dominance and aggression. For that reason, the color is typically used on details that need to stand out and increase urgency such as a “Buy Now” or “Click Here” button.   
  • Orange and yellow have been shown to be associated with joy, playfulness, and creativity in research from the University of Mumbai.  This makes them great colors for injecting positivity into an email body. 
  • When reminiscent of nature, green has been shown to decrease stress and put people at ease. In an email, it’s ideal for guiding people through technical content or a long onboarding process.  
  • Blue, which is widely known to provide a sense of comfort and peace because of its associations with water, is a good option for providing reassurance. Meanwhile, pink has been shown to disarm people and make them feel calmer. You could use either of these colors in email campaigns, but be sure to be mindful of their gendered connotations.    
  • Purple has been used for centuries to line the clothes of royalty. This has given the color an expensive, alluring edge that makes it ideal for creating a sense of exclusivity around your offers. 
  • Though technically the absence of color rather than a color itself, black can have a powerful impact on an email. When used in headers or as a background, you can ensure a sleek and professional look while boosting readability.
The color wheel inside the Encharge email builder

Colors and brand identity

Using brand colors in your emails could strengthen your brand identity and create a seamless experience for your users. One study from Pantone Color Institute even showed that color increases brand recognition by 87%. 

This section explores examples of SAAS companies that have used color to make their branded emails more memorable.

SurveyMonkey

SurveyMonkey provides both reassurance and positivity with this email. The bright green branded header contrasts with the white text and a yellow CTA for a message that stands out and is super accessible. 

A SurveyMonkey email that uses the psychology of colors

Zapier

Zapier has used its brand colors to create an email that draws the eye across critical details. First, you notice the graphics in the primary orange color, which show what each section is about. Then, they use a lighter shade to break up information and add a sense of calm.

As in this example from Zapier, colors are a great way to break up blocks of information

Skillshare

Skillshare has created a branded email with an air of exclusivity. The signature green graphic element and CTA cement brand identity, while the purple header elevates the design. 

When you use a drag-and-drop email editor such as Encharge, you can add your brand colors to buttons, headers, and backgrounds and use easy templates to build emails that stand out in the inbox and your audience will notice.

A great promotional email from SkillShare 

How to successfully implement color psychology

Despite the ideas we can get from the principles of color psychology, human reactions to color are subjective. The Psychonomic Bulletin & Review states, “Our color selections are often influenced by price, selection, and other practical concerns. Not only that, but color preferences can also change over time.”  

To use the psychology of colors in email marketing, you need to be able to test the results on your audience while retaining your brand image. Here are two examples of how this could look using an email flow builder like Encharge.

Lead generation campaign 

  • Segment your audience based on key criteria, such as industry or job title, and identify distinct groups that will be the focus of your testing.
  • Make sure your current brand colors are updated on your site and sync your website builder and email builder.
  • Set up A/B tests where you isolate a single element per audience segment. For one, you might test whether a red “Download Now” converts better than a green. Don’t forget to test the color of hyperlinks, too as these are an underutilized area for color!
  • Analyze the impact on conversion rates and engagement in the same dashboard as you create your emails. 
Email with A/b test in Encharge

Learn more: What Is A/B Testing in Email Marketing? The Essential Guide

Onboarding campaign 

  • Segment your audience based on user behaviors, such as the end of a free trial or the use of a new feature.
  • Choose a single element to test per audience segment. For example, you could check whether a blue “Get Started” button performs better than a purple one.
  • Monitor long-term engagement metrics, such as user retention and feature adoption on a segment by segment basis.
Encharge provides effective onboarding template flows that you can use to convert trial users 

Examples of color psychology in onboarding campaigns 

Miro 

The design choices in Miro’s onboarding flow show they clearly understand that their audience is looking for a simple but beautiful workflow solution.  The pale blue color complements the first line of copy (“Miro makes teams nimbler, efficient, effective, more inspired”), while the GIF shows them everything they can do when onboarded.  

Through integration with Nexweave, you can include GIFs in your emails like Miro has here

Chargebee

Though their primary brand colors are various shades of orange, Chargebee opted for this bright purple CTA as part of their onboarding email optimization. Through Encharge, you can also use an action-triggered nudge email to get people to book a demo.  

Even just a splash of color, like in this example from Chargebee, can have a huge impact on your campaign results

SocialBee

SocialBee has created an exciting, easy-to-read onboarding email using their branded yellow, a clear structure, and some fun emojis. Like any good onboarding email, it also preempts any potential user issues to contribute to the sense of positivity. 

Like SocialBee, you can match the colors of your emojis and your banners for a more impressive email

There’s so much you can do already with color psychology and behavior-based emails, but the future could present even more opportunities. Here we explore trends that will gain popularity in the coming years.   

Using color psychology in interactive emails  

Interactive emails involve content that engages the reader without taking them to a new window; in a 2022 study, over half of marketers identified them as the most effective form of interactive content.

With more and more opportunities for interactive content each year,  you can include: 

  • Image carousels.
  • Polls.
  • Videos.
  • Quizzes.
  • GIFs.

And, to add another level to your color psychology testing, you can experiment with the colors of these to get the best results. For example, with Hyperise (which integrates with Encharge), you can personalize your images based on the actions your audience takes and add dynamic layers such as logos, profile images, and text options.  

The rise of Customer Data Platforms

According to recent research, the Customer Data Platform industry grew by 15% in 2023. These centralized systems that collect, organize, and manage data from multiple sources are rapidly transforming the way marketing departments work.

By using a CDP,  you can get a unified view of each customer, maintain consistency across channels, and optimize the results of your email campaigns. You can connect Encharge to CDPs such as Segment.com to create an instant view of key data. 

Awareness of accessibility issues

In 2023, the Global Accessibility Day Foundation said that they “see companies making progress towards delivering accessible experiences, but there is still a lot of work to be done.” 

Increasing numbers of marketers are aware of the importance of adding alt text, sending plain text versions of emails, and checking fonts to improve accessibility. 


Color also plays a key role since, no matter which tests you run, you need to include contrasting colors to improve readability. 

AI in email marketing

As most of us know by now, artificial intelligence (AI) is able to automate the tasks that we humans find too time-consuming (or too boring). Now a huge part of email marketing, you can use it to:

  • Write copy or create images with prompts. 
  • Create more accurate email segments based on audience data. 
  • Personalize content based on the user’s past behavior, preferences, or location (we explore this more in the next section). 
  • Set up tests and automatically abandon tests that aren’t providing good results. 
  • Identify your most successful subject lines, images, and CTAs based on historical data.
  • Increase email deliverability by avoiding phrases that could be flagged as spam.
  • Improve lead scoring by accurately measuring website, email, and product engagement. 

Pro tip: Encharge is the first marketing automation platform with built-in AI-powered copy-generating capabilities. Our Magic Writer feature can help you come up with dozens of subject line ideas in a click. But that’s not all. The Magic Writer can generate whole emails for you, write unique outlines for your emails, and even rewrite existing subject lines. Want to take it out for a spin? Sign up for a 14-day free trial today.

Hyper-personalization in email marketing  

Hyper-personalization is designing an email campaign to meet every reader’s individual needs and interests. Think advanced targeting with real-time data such as recent purchases, website visits, and interactions.

With hyper-personalization, you can:

  • Utilize micro-segmentation to target more precise audiences. 
  • Provide more value to your customers in onboarding and engagement sequences.
  • Deliver personalized recommendations and special offers. 
  • Predict customer’s future needs and act accordingly.

Using color psychology alongside automation   

Color psychology is more of a science than an art. And, like any science, you need high-quality data to get results. 

Start experimenting with color in your A/B tests using Encharge. You can create precise segments, link to website builders, set up onboarding and lead generation flows in minutes, and save time with extensive automated features. This means you can optimize every part of your email more accurately without losing time.

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